Te Araroa hut. Photo courtesy of Deny Houdek


Have you ever thought about hiking the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trail, but are worried about bears, desert dehydration or worse?

There’s another option, though you will need to travel for it.

A little-known through-hike and one of the best hikes in New Zealand, the Te Araroa Trail, was established in 2011 to stretch from the tip of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island in New Zealand.  Deny Houdek completed the entirety of this “tramp” (as the Kiwis say) and shares his expertise below.

When not hiking, this intrepid 23-year-old Czech nomad lives out of his backpack, residing in Canada, New Zealand and Australia while exploring even more places.

Check out his YouTube Channel for details of his adventures.

1) How did you first hear of the Te Araroa Trail and what inspired you to hike it? 

I used to host ‘’couchsurfers’’ when I lived in Tauranga — a city in New Zealand — and a German traveler told me about this epic tramp. It starts in Cape Reinga and stretches down to Bluff [for 3000 kilometers/1864 miles].

I had recently arrived to New Zealand and this idea of walking the length of the country seemed to be the best way to explore beautiful landscapes and meet local people.

2) What was your hiking experience prior to embarking on this adventure?

Previously, I only had hiked two or three day treks when I lived in British Columbia, Canada.  I had never walked 3000 kilometers so I was not sure if I could do it.

3) What makes the Te Araroa Trail unique?  

Te Araroa Trail officially opened in December 2011, which makes it the newest long distance hike in the world. Compare to other thru-hikes like Pacific Crest Trail or Appalachian Trail, Te Araroa Trail is very different and unpredictable every day; mostly because of the weather, terrain and navigation.

You have to earn the views — especially in the South Island — but it is also very rewarding.  You basically start with beach and road walking, bush-bashing through forests, crossing farmlands with pastures of cows and sheep. Then you continue to walking across volcanoes and ridges of high mountains 100 kilometers (62 miles) away from nearest town.

If you want to test your body, mind and soul then I recommend it. It’s truly one of the best South Island New Zealand hiking trails.

 Te Araroa Trail richmond ranges
Richmond ranges. Photo courtesy of Deny Houdek.

4) What was the most rewarding part of hiking the Te Araroa Trail?

Walking on the top of mountain ridges and finishing my long days in huts where I could watch sunsets with other fellow hikers.

5) I know through-hikers on other trails refer to “trail angels,” people who gift hikers with food or a helping hand.  Did you experience something like this on the Te Araroa Trail?

I had a really good time staying with James in Ngunguru who helped me to get across the lake on his boat and let me stay at his place for a night. It was a nice change from sleeping in a tent. Also, big thanks to Murray from Hamilton, who fed me tacos and ice cream. It’s always a good time to stay with people who make you feel at home.

Te Araroa Trail raetea forest
Raetea forest. Photo courtesy of Deny Houdek.

6) What was the most challenging part of hiking the Te Araroa Trail?

Waking up and putting wet socks on! It’s really more psychically demanding than physically. Most of the days you walk 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) on average; eat, sleep and repeat.

Raetea Forest was the very first big challenge I came across. I injured my knee, which increased the difficulty of getting through incredibly dense forest. It rained every day and I was literally covered in mud from head to toe.

Hiking the Te Araroa Trail in #NewZealand is mentally and physically challenging...but worth it! Click To Tweet

7) Did hiking the trail make you think differently about wilderness conservation and the importance of maintaining natural trails?

Absolutely. Now I can see how much we need nature in our lives and I have more respect for wild places. People should unplug from society time to time and absorb positive energy from Mother Earth.  If we can leave no trace behind, even better.

8) If someone doesn’t have time to hike the whole Te Araroa Trail but would like to do a section, which would you recommend?

There are plenty of great sections, mostly in South Island. Richmond Ranges and Waiau Pass are definitely my favorites. You go deep into wilderness for more than just couple of days. It’s just you and mountains. Totally disconnected.

If you don’t have 7-10 days, I would recommend Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sounds. Everyone can hike it. It is not difficult and views give you the taste of the South Island. It’s very close to New Zealand’s famous wine region!

Te Araroa Trail breast hill track
Deny (on right) and his father on the Breast Hill Track. Photo courtesy of Deny Houdek.

9) What advice would you give someone hoping to complete the Te Araroa Trail?  Is there something you wish someone had told you before setting out?

Just do it! It is an adventure of a lifetime.  Also, a note of caution: just because it’s summer, doesn’t mean it won’t snow!

Check out this #inspiring story of the 23-year-old nomad who hiked the Te Araroa Trail! #newzealand Click To Tweet


Katie Foote

Katie Foote may be a physicist by trade but she spent several years travelling the world as much as possible. After four years of semi-nomadic life, she spent a couple years in Auckland, New Zealand and recently moved to Vancouver, Canada. Despite living more traditionally, she has insight on how to travel the world on a graduate student budget (cheap!), explore off-the-beaten-path destinations and authentically experiencing new places by connecting to locals. When she's not doing physics or globe-trotting, she likes kickboxing, yoga and exploring her extraordinary new backyard of British Columbia.

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1 Comment

  1. South Island, in particular, has many excellent passages. I absolutely adore Waiau Pass and the Richmond Ranges. For longer than a few days, you venture into the woods. The mountains are all by yourself.

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